Rehab and preparation

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

FOR the administration of President Noynoy Aquino, the buzzword for 2014 should be “rehabilitation.” After super typhoon Yolanda devastated many areas in the Visayas in early November last year, #Bangon Visayas is a formidable undertaking.

I say rehab work should also include the rebuilding of structures in Bohol and Cebu hit by the magnitude 7.2 quake in October last year, notably the churches that were damaged or reduced to rubble.

One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of “rehabilitate” is to “restore to a former state.” In the case of areas devastated by both the super typhoon and the strong quake, that would mean restoring these places and structures to their condition before the two calamities hit.

I do not think that is the way the Aquino administration and the localities should go.

Rather, rehabilitation should involve not only restoring those affected to their former state but also improving their capacity to withstand the next typhoon or quake that would visit us.

Cebu City Government officials talked early on about looking for appropriate evacuation sites for typhoons following the experience particularly of Tacloban City where damage to properties and loss of lives were high because of both the winds and the storm surge.

But we haven’t heard of any follow-up to that as yet. Which means that it could very well remain in the realm of talk until the next typhoon heads our way.

There were also talks about pushing for the retrofitting of structures in Cebu and Bohol so these could withstand the next strong tremor that would strike us (knock on wood!), but these were soon forgotten when Yolanda became the “flavor of the month.”

Meanwhile, we still have to hear about the rehabilitation plan of the Cebu Provincial Government and the affected localities for the Yolanda-devastated northern tip of the province. Is the construction of typhoon shelters in strategic areas of the province in the plan?

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 made noise after Yolanda struck about planting mangroves in storm surge-prone coastal areas. Whatever happened to that? Will DENR prod Capitol to join in the implementation of the plan to speed up things?

The Aquino administration has not released details of its rehab plan for the areas hit by Yolanda. But DENR announced in December that it would implement the 40-meter “no
build zones” in coastal areas there.

The implementation of “no-build zones,” though, should be nationwide. Will the local government units in Cebu be up to the task?

PNoy signed in December the appointment of former senator Panfilo Lacson as rehabilitation czar. Lacson is tasked to oversee reconstruction in the regions devastated by Yolanda. His appointment has been questioned considering his lack of expertise in rehab matters. This year will test his ability and the correctness of the President’s move.

Rehabilitation work will only succeed if after it is completed and the next calamity comes around, damage to properties and loss of lives would be considerably lesser compared to past experiences. The world saw that in typhoon-prone country of Bangladesh, which succeeded in lessening the effects of the recent typhoons that lashed it.

We will see if local government officials, like those in Cebu Capitol and Cebu City Hall, will be up to the challenge. In a typical year, the Philippines is hit with 19 tropical storms (the occurrence of earthquakes can’t be predicted). Some of these would be weak, others would be strong.

Will Gov. Hilario Davide III and Mayor Michael Rama be untiring and creative in preparing their areas and constituencies for any eventuality? Will their preparation be adequate?


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 03, 2014.


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